The fifth issue of De Stoker was written and edited by the people living and working at our project Pension Almonde. Because of the international characters of these ‘urban nomads’ it is fully in English. It’s main focus is the way the community dealt with Covid, and the lessons learned after one year of living at Almondestraat.
It has been quiet on our website for a while. Not because we have been paralyzed by the Coronavirus – on the contrary, things are happening in rapid succession, and then it is vital to take the most necessary action first. But now there is some time for an update.
First of all, all of us (the community of about 80 people) are doing well so far. Especially in Almondestraat, the residents of Pension Almonde have quickly switched to the ‘new normal’:
– Online communication via various channels (WhatsApp, radio, Facebook, video-meeting tools such as Zoom, etc.) has quickly been taken. Meetings and gatherings also continue as usual. We all learn that physical presence is not always necessary.
– Communication from the balconies automatically maintains the correct social distance.
– There has been singing and dancing on the balconies, online raves have been organized, online yoga is practised and social-distance sports activities are held in the park.
– There is a great deal of solidarity and a special Care group has been created that checks whether everyone is doing well by direct telephone contact.
– The outreach to the neighbourhood has also started. After Keju Kitchen (a commons catering company in the street) first changed the weekly soup day to a takeaway soup-counter and started cooking for the street, the service has now expanded – with financial support from the municipality – to free food provision for the elderly and deprived persons in the neighbourhood.
And: the first corona-era baby in our community entered the world yesterday. Mother and child are doing well. A second is in the planning for this week.
The daily developments can be followed through various channels:
– the News button on the website of pension Almonde ;
– the Facebook page of pension Almonde ;
– and the daily radio channel Good Times, Bad times can be followed via the internet (sometimes) with laid-back conversations and music.
Besides, ‘the media’ have been visiting in recent days. First, a short item in an ARTE / ZDf (German television) episode of Metropolis about Rotterdam culture, in which Melle Smets takes you to Almondestraat from minute 10. The recordings were actually 4 weeks ago; another world.
After a pre-corona episode of WijkTV about Almonde guest house in general, an Open Rotterdam report about food distribution followed. The regional channel RTVRijnmond also came along.
Also a nice article in national newspaper De Volkskrant: Soep en yoga: hoe een Rotterdams huizenblok ondanks alles contact houdt
We are pleasantly surprised by the resilience and adaptability of our City in the Making community. It creates hope for a better future and shows that such close-knit communities are vital not only in the days of crisis but especially afterwards when hopefully another world emerges from the current misery.
From Thursday February 6th until Sunday 9th Rotterdam was under the spell of Rotterdam Art Week / Art Rotterdam. Almonde Boardinghouse took the opportunity to lift the roof in many of the houses and spaces in Almondestraat. During the day, the apartments of our street were transformed into the Not For Profit Art Party exhibition space (in collaboration with WORM). At night the ‘Party Everywhere’-party took over and many of the living spaces of our urban nomads were transformed into informal bars, pizza-places and meditation rooms. And , of course, at night visitors could sleep in one of the many rooms that were enhanced by the artists.
The Not For Profit Art Party showed work form about 50 different artists in many of the apartments of the boarding house. Representatives of several Rotterdam art institutions, like Bcademie and Printroom, as well as from national institutions and of course our in-house artists had their work on show. National newspaper de Volkskrant and online art magazine Jegens & Tevens gave us rave reviews (in Dutch only). For our boarding-house guests and fort he visiting art lovers a new reception lobby was officially opened. With their key guest were provided with essentials like a coffee mug, a tooth brush, banana body lotion and (on request) condoms. The spaces of Keju kitchen were transformed into a breakfast room / Karaoke Bar. Boarding-house host Flip also ran a bookshop. From now on the reception lobby and our nightclub Xbar will be a permanent part of our facilities.
On Saturday night, the cellar of our reception lobby, the Xbar (both by Studio C.A.R.E.), was the venue for local punk-blues band Sociale Onrust as well a few DJ’s. That night may doors opened for self-organized bars and meeting spaces in the living rooms; a ginger bar / monkey-cage, a pizza and tattoo parlour (real pizza’s, real tattoos), Silent Disco in a Bedouin tent, poetry from the balcony, a tea ceremony at midnight an much more. It was the place to be in Rotterdam (as it will be for the coming months.)
Fortunately Frank Hanswijks excellent photos remain!
And a special thanks to:WORM Rotterdam, Stichting VHDG, EXTRAPOOL, XPUB, – Piet Zwart Institute,Bcademie.nl, Printroom, Expoplu, Tetem, Keju Kitchen, Slopera, Nieuwe Vide Artspace, KIOSK, C.A.R.E. Stad in de Maak – City in the Making
This bi-lingual issue of The Stoker is dedicated to the new City in the Making endeavour Almonde Boarding House. With interviews, descriptions of the different social and cultural activities and articles on urban nomadism and commoning.
Almonde Open Day
Saturday June 22 from 14:00 en 19:00 Almonde Boarding house (Pension Almonde) will present its first open house party: Almonde Open .
The first batch of new users of our ground floor commons at Almondestraat will present themselves to the neighborhood and the city. Every newcomer will organize its own mini festival from their own location; a bit inside, a bit outside on the street.
With among others: Pension Almonde – MotherDock – Al KHEMA, WoodstoneKugelblitz – Voici la femme – Food and other Stories – Copy Shop – Wasbuur – Stad in de Maak – Mini EKWC – Biobulkbende –
Workshops – Presentations – Tours – Expositions – Soup – Performances – Chilling
Where? Anywhere between house numbers 141 and 235.
Almonde Boarding House is a project of Stad in de Maak / City in the Making and takes place until at least the summer of 2020, in 52 apartments of the former social, to be redeveloped, houses at Almondestraat in Rotterdam.
Almonde offers a temporary home for neighborhood initiatives, urban nomads and misfits. By combining the need for flexible and affordable places to live and work with social and cultural activities, degradation of the street is stopped and new places to meet are created. The neighborhood is host to newcomers and vice versa the newcomers are the guests and clients of the neighborhood activities.
Since January 2019, City in the Making has been given access to 52 apartments in Rotterdam’s Almondestraat for a period of at least 18 months. This section of the street gets temporally transformed into Boarding House
Boarding House Almonde offers temporary residence to neighborhood initiatives and urban nomads in these former social-rental-sector apartments in the Almondestraat. By combining the demand for temporal and flexible housing space with the functionality of a community center, a new type of living-meeting space gets created. The neighborhood is host to the guests of the boarding house, and vice-versa are these newcomers customers of the neighborhood initiatives. The starting point of all of this is to create a living room / community space which next to offering practical facilities also enables to develop networks that enhance the social structure of the neighborhood.
Boarding house Almonde is situated in the ZoHo district, an urban redevelopment area on a stone’s throw from downtown Rotterdam. In 2018, a tender was launched calling project developers to bring this urban renewal operation into effect. In 2018 the social-rental-sector apartments of the Almondestraat have been included in this redevelopment effort due to issues with the structural integrity of their foundations. City in the Making has been asked by property owner (and social-rental operator) Havensteder to take on the vacancy management up to the moment of demolition to pay tribute to their origins and maintain the livability in the street.
Over a period of a year, the current tenants will move into their next apartments, possibly in the neighborhood, but more likely further removed from their current street. Some of the households are living for over half a century in the Almondestraat and are at home in this district like no other. Their stories are the first building blocks of the boarding house project. Artists, writers, researchers and journalists open up these stories to the broader world, to lend them a voice in the discussion around urban renewal. During a year, the boarding house will expand to its full capacity of 52 apartments, which takes up nearly the entire street. The transformation process of arrival and departure gets documented and performed in a ‘Scrapera’ (a street opera celebrating former life in the street) – the final chord of this phase of urban renewal.
The boarding house itself may become nomadic and temporally move on to another urban renewal street, and another, thus achieving a permanent status.
From the beginning Stad in de Maak has been inspired by the German Mietshäuser Syndikat. This organisation, grounded in the German squatter movement of the 1980’s, at present consists of about 120 different autonomous co-housing (and mixed use -working and -cultural) projects. Each of the projects is self-organized and largely autonomous in its day to day decision making. The buildings are collectively self-managed and owned by the people living there. They pay rent to their own coop. The rents are kept low, and not having any money is never reason for not being admitted.
The ‘umbrella’ organisation Mietshauser Syndikat has a share in all the individual projects and can veto major systemic decisions, most notably the sale of the property. Because of this structure, the projects are in effect taken off the (speculative) market. Besides that, the Syndikat offers know-how to new co-housing projects. Know-how that was gathered over time in the more than 100 self-built and managed projects. Since the older projects have paid off their loans, but keep on paying rent, the Syndikat, or the individual members, can now also offer financial aid in starting new projects.
Thus the principles of self-organisation and management, of solidarity and of non-speculative, affordable housing for all have been firmly embedded in all the groups that together make up de Syndicat.
For a couple of years several groups in the Netherlands have talked about starting our own Syndicat. This has been achieved this year by starting de vereniging (union) VrijCoop. Stad in de Maak is one of the founding members. A direct copy of the German model proved not possible because of different legal systems. But we managed to stay very close to our inspiration. Several projects are about to start, EcoVillage Boekel probably being the first.
At Stad in de Maak we have been trying several times to bid on derelict buildings in order to escape the temporality of our current houses. Having been severely outbid by the ‘market’ on these occasions, we still have good hope that we will succeed soon.
See all about the Mietshauser Syndicat in this one hour movie ‘Das ist unser Haus’ (This is our House, German spoken, but subtitled in English or Nederlands, choose the CC button (chosen caption) in the Vimeo menu)
More on the Syndicat:
More on Vrijcoop
Who controls access to land in the city, controls (much of) its urban future. This makes that in the urban economy, land plays a crucial role – so important actually, that its value is often far more relevant than all that what is built in stone, steel or concrete on top of it. When we speak about rising prices of real estate, we often forget that it is largely the price of the land underneath that is increasing. Not so strange if you consider that in most cities you evidently cannot ‘simply’ create new construction land, so the supply is limited.
Buy land, they’re not making it anymore
“Buy land, they’re not making it anymore,” Mark Twain famously said. Twain was obviously unaware of new land that was made in the Netherlands by impoldering large parts of the sea, but in general, he is right, of course. In times of surging real-estate prices (like today in Rotterdam) there is nothing to balance its demand – hence it gets an ‘unhealthy’ value. There is a substantial segment of economists that argue that land should therefore not be considered a commodity: its price-point cannot, because of its inherent scarcity, balance according to the ‘market’ rulebook of supply-and-demand. And precisely that now makes it such an easy prey in speculative development schemes.
Besides its fixed supply, there are other reasons why land is different than the usual commodities we buy on the market. The basic capitalist idea is that surplus value is created by labour on raw materials. But land value can increase by legislation (when a building permit is given on agricultural land for instance) or by changes in its surroundings (when a nice park is made in front of your house, the value of land and house rises, and this significant increase is hardly compensated by a bit more land tax you need to pay). You can sit back and increase your capital as a landowner by simply waiting (the value will rise anyway) or by leasing it out (which aristocratic families have done for ages). No need for any added labour.
So, to keep the price of living affordable, there is much to say to take the land out of the economic equation. Continue reading “The price of land – and how to tackle it with a Community Land Trust”
Bakkerij De Eenvoud (‘Bakery Simplicity’ or ‘Common Bakery’), a neighbourhood bakery that is being built in the commons spaces of City in the Making, participates in De Burger Bepaald (The Citizen Decides). Inhabitants of Rotterdam Noord may divide 50.000 Euro’s among 65 local cultural initiatives, by online voting.
Bakkerij De Eenvoud will build a lime oven in De Stokerij commons, and together with neighbours and other bread enthusiasts bread will be made and stories and recipes will be exchanged. Learn to make your own bread from your neighbours and taste the warm bread we make for each other.
Last Wednesday 22nd the Bakery was kick-started. The first bread was baked and tasted. Together with City in the Making inhabitants and neighbours a special one-on-one model was made from dough and paper to test different positions of the oven within in the commons space at Pieter de Raadtstraat 35. Additional knowledge and flour was provided by windmill De Walvis in Schiedam.
Nice, City in the Making is one of the 10 projects out of 44 entries nominated by the jury for the Rotterdam Architecture Prize 2017.
Our pitch: “Architecture is more than just stacking bricks neatly or the supple ordering of function and space. Architecture at its best generates a sparkling urban life and facilitates the free blossoming of human endeavours. It is the art of enabling (Cedric Price)”
Even nicer: everybody can vote for the public’s prize!
And klick on the button: ‘Ik stem op dit project’ (I vote for this project). Fill in your email, confirm you are not a robot (unless you are a robot, in that case: sorry, not for you) and click ‘Stem’ (Vote).
Of course, you may choose to vote for another project. But why would you?